Thursday, November 29, 2012

Anger Management

I've had to come to the realization that I'm really, honestly, angry about this wonky knee issue that is keeping me from training for my third half marathon like I really wanted to. It's not annoyed, it's not perturbed, it's not frustrated. It's ANGRY. Yes, all caps ANGRY.

There's nothing that says angry better than a baby! That's my granddaughter, Angelique pitching a fit.
And it has been hard to really make myself realize that. To look past those other surface feelings like frustration and annoyance and realize that it is deeper...because deeper needs to not be ignored. A deeper feeling like anger needs some management because if I let it, anger can cause a whole lot of other problems - both physically and mentally; never mind how it is causing me to treat friends and family because I'm holding it in.

The thing is, if someone had asked me several months ago if I felt like I was in a place where I could deal with an injury in a productive way I would have said yes wholeheartedly. I have dealt with being angry at myself for getting fat and out of shape in the first place, being angry at myself for getting stuck in the same place for years, being angry at the number on the scale, so on and so forth. You get the idea. But apparently I didn't know how devastating it would be to have knee pain that is sticking around and not going away after some extra rest or stretching. It has made me completely reassess who I even think I am.

Because, the thing is, for the past three years I've identified myself as a runner. I'm not the fastest or the farthest runner, but I run. And it's become a huge part of who I am. When my birthday or Christmas rolls around, it is inevitable that the list ends up being 95% running or fitness gear! When my running is going good...all other aspects of life seem to fall in place. It's a driving force for me and all of a sudden the driving force is - POOF - gone. And I feel adrift, lost at sea, unable to find my bearings. And it makes me angry.

So now that I've finally admitted that I'm dealing with some anger issues, I have a couple options. I can continue to be angry and let it fester. I can continue to punish my body for its betrayal by eating crap food and doing lackluster workouts. OR I can stand up and call bulls**t and say I'm better than this! I can give myself the same advice I've given countless running friends - take time to heal, let another activity take center stage and enjoy the change, find something new to energize you, and come back stronger than before; changing your goals is better than throwing them out. Why yes, that IS good advice, self!

As I was in the car driving to work this morning (only 15-20 minutes a day, but I swear it is where I do my best thinking...) I realized that I could be focusing on building better core strength, getting better arm definition, and building the muscles in my legs that I need to better support my knees. I could be focusing on dropping the pounds so I'm a lighter runner, which equates to less impact on my joints. I could be re-focusing on yoga to improve my balance and mental strength. Because I may identify myself as a runner, but I am also so much more than that!

So I actually found myself at a place that I haven't been for several weeks...EXCITED! I began thinking about the different types of exercises I could do, the different plans I could create, the variety of strength training I could revisit. Of course it means that I probably won't get the PR I've been hunting at the half marathon in January...but it might just mean that I'm at a super good place to get it at the next one in May 2013!

The reality is that, as the saying has always gone, when life gives you lemons - make lemonade! And all I can say is

I'll drink to that - Cheers!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fighting the Good Fight?

So last Thursday I headed out for a tempo training run and I have to tell was freaking AWESOME! I normally have a small-ish window of time to get my run in during the morning since I have to get myself off to work, so when the miles are higher (and since I'm a slow-ish runner) I don't always have the time to get all the training miles in like I want. Last Thursday was a 5 mile run following a 10 minute warm-up and I actually got the whole thing completed and right on time! And I basically felt really good while running too. But then towards the end of the run I felt some achiness in my left knee...a completely new ache that hadn't been there before. The pain was noticeably worse during any kind of incline - I mean we're talking a sidewalk entrance ramp thingy; and then when I walked down the stairs after getting ready for work it was no longer an ache - it was bordering on actual pain. A runner's worst nightmare was beginning...but I was hopefully optimistic that it was just a passing ache. It continued to ache all day while doing absolutely nothing but sit. Uh-oh...seems like something that isn't going to just fade away after a day of rest?

Fast forward to Tuesday of this week, after taking Saturday's run off to rest the knee, and I head out and don't get very far as it is still twinging up like the dickens. :-( 

At that point, I needed to evaluate where to go from there. Keep resting or try it again? I made the hard decision that I needed to really rest it - for several days. So I cut the Tuesday run very short, cancelled Thursday, cancelled Saturday and will see again next Tuesday how it is doing.

As any runner knows - this is SUPER difficult to do! My mind is wrestling with the fact that it WANTS to be out running, while my body is wrestling with the fact that if I give into the brain, the body might be wrestling with a true blue injury instead of just an annoying twinge. 

But here's where the slippery slope really starts to get crazy because what I then want to do is...absolutely nothing. I don't want to eat right. I don't want to get up and stretch. I don't want to do some yoga. I don't want to foam roll. You get the idea...It's a seriously crazy slide I'm on here. 

And I've got to lift myself up by the bootstraps shoelaces and not let this go any further. If I want to be one of those crazy runners still going strong into my eighties (because, face it, that's the ONLY way I'll ever win my age group! hahaha) then I'm going to have to learn how to deal with being sidelined a little better.

Tomorrow I still wake up like normal and I take the puppy for a short, easy, slow walk and then I roll, roll, roll it out. Because even though it is my knee that is giving me the grief, I actually think it's more related to a super-duper tight calf muscle. I will do that every darn day through next week and if - BIG HUGE IF - I am ready to run again on Tuesday, I will better focus on stretching and rolling before/after/etc. I also need to make sure I'm getting up more often at work...I've been sitting on my bum way too much these days and it's not just tightening up the muscles, it also means I'm not drinking enough water. 

Enough is enough, right?

So question for you - how do you keep the mental focus going strong when the physical focus isn't there?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Creating THE Plan...

So, if you're not up to date, I covered my first two half marathons and then talked about how I wanted to train with a purpose for my third go at it. But I also mentioned that I had made some modifications and I didn't go a whole lot into what the "3 Key Running Workouts" were either. So let's discuss how this whole "PLAN" came about for a moment, shall we?

I knew that I wanted to use the Run Less, Run Faster plan, but outside of reading the book and agreeing with the principles I hadn't paid much attention to the specifics. So first thing I did once we determined we were going to sign up for the Temecula Valley Half Marathon was bust out the "book" (recall that it was an e-book...) and review the specifics. This is how it breaks down:

3 Key Running Workouts
  • Track Repeats - these are widely varied throughout the plan and are usually a repeating distance for a specific number of sets with either a time or distance resting interval (RI) in between. For example, my workout yesterday was 6x800 with 1:30 RI.
  • Tempo - you have four sets of paces for tempo runs; easy, short, mid, and long and depending on the workout you may do a combination of paces or distances or you may have a single pace for the entire distance. For example, my workout tomorrow is 5 miles at mid-tempo pace.
  • Distance - this is where you log your long miles and it is at one of two paces; Half Marathon Pace (HMP) +20 seconds or HMP +30 seconds. Pretty self explanatory for the most part. My Saturday workout this week will be 12 miles at HMP +30.

2 Cross-Training Workouts (Optional: you can add one additional workout each week if desired)
  • The book recommends that you do one of three activities; swimming, cycling or rowing. The point is that because you are pushing your legs on running days, they want you doing non-weight bearing activities for x-training. The book provides multiple workouts for each of these activities too.

As I mentioned yesterday, the book contains tables that include very specific paces based on your 5k time, so whenever I talk about specific paces, I'm talking about what MINE are - yours would be different, of course. So there's the basics of the plan. It's not specific to certain days, although they do show you what a sample week might look like. For me, I prefer to run on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I cross-train on Monday and Wednesday, and also do a lighter than normal workout on Fridays too. Sundays are strictly for rest. I do also add some light strength training primarily focusing on exercises that will assist me in my running too. 

Here's what a training week looks like for me - this was the first week of October:
Training Plan Week at a Glance

The training plan is 18 weeks long - yes, I was also surprised at how long it was as most it seems are usually around 14-16 weeks in length. Here's a look at how they break down each week's workout for you:

Source: Run Less, Run Faster

Alright, now you know what the plan kind of entails so I'll share with you how I go about figuring it all out. I prefer to use a calendar to map it out, putting down the details for each of the days. I seem to do better when I see it on a is scheduled in and a lot less likely to get skipped. But that's what works for me, everybody is different. For this one I used a calendar template in Visio and I found it to be the absolute EASIEST I've ever used. In the past I had used PowerPoint, Word, name it. Visio is my go-to now. In case you aren't familiar with Visio, it is part of the Microsoft Office Suite, although it may not come standard depending on which level of suite you have purchased. I have the Professional Suite and it is included. But keep in mind, any calendar will work - even one you write in by hand! (yes, technology is not required! LOL)

I start on the race date and work my way backwards. This specific plan also happens to number backwards as well, so week 18 was the first week and then you count down to the big day! Seeing how this training cycle falls within just a couple little holidays (yes, I speak in sarcasm often) I had to keep those in mind while scheduling. My main goals were to be realistic but to stay as true to the plan as possible. So some of the things I had to keep in mind were:
  • Other Races - I knew I had at least two virtual 5k's and one real-life one on the schedule during the training time, so I made sure to get those dates on the calendar first so they weren't missed
  • Black Friday - I'll be out shopping so there is absolutely no way I will be working out early (yes, I'm one of *those* people...)
  • Christmas - we wake up super early for presents and it is usually an activity filled day which means I only workout IF there is extra time
  • New Year's - won't be waking up early this day either!
  • Work Holidays - I can be a little more flexible when I'm not bound to a work start time
Once I had those critical days marked off, I could get to work making any modifications that were needed. For the days that I was participating in other races that were virtual (October 20-Cupcake Classic through; October 27-Zombie Dash through Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans; and November 22-Family Virtual Turkey Trot) I was able to schedule in the race distance and then added in the rest of the planned miles and paces. So for example, the week of the Cupcake Classic the plan was originally 9 miles at HMP +20; I modified it to be 3.1 miles at no specific pace (as it would most likely be faster than HMP+20) and then 6 miles at HMP +20. I also had to take into consideration my one physical race - November 3-Color Run San Diego. Since I was traveling over an hour each way for this one, it was the only thing I put on the schedule that week; in essence, I skipped what was planned completely.

The week of Thanksgiving was not a big deal, I modified the mileage to include a virtual 5k on turkey day and since Friday is a light day for me anyways, I took it as a rest day. Besides, shopping is like exercise anyways, right, ladies?? *wink wink* Christmas week wasn't too difficult either. I knew I didn't want a workout on Christmas morning to worry about so I shifted that entire week to be running workouts on Monday and Wednesday instead with Tuesday as a rest day unless I change my mind.  New Year's Day I left as is which is a regular workout day, but since I'm not working that week I don't have to be up before the sun to get my run in. So I can wake up, head out for a quick workout and be back home in time for the parade...I hope anyways. 

Other than those slight modifications it was mostly sticking to the plan! I did revise a couple workouts down in duration because there wasn't any way I could get 7+ miles in on a work morning when I start work at 7:00 AM. So I might've adjusted down just a few times, but overall, not that often thankfully due to the fact that I get a lot of time off during the holidays (I work for a school).

So now that I have it all on the calendar you would think my job would be done, right? Not so fast...I had a couple more things I needed to do. WHEW! I had two issues to contend with now: 1) I don't have a track to do track repeats on; and 2) track distances are in meters and my Garmin speaks in miles. What's a girl to do?

Well, with the handy-dandy Garmin (which I absolutely LOVE) I am able to program the distances in which saves me from having to break into a local school on a regular basis. Although I would get pretty fast if I was constantly running from school security officers, I couldn't possibly risk injury by jumping fences. 

Then, because the plan has meter distances, and meter times for those distances and my Garmin is programmed by miles, I went about doing some creative conversions. This was probably the hardest part of getting my plan set!

I broke out an Excel spreadsheet and created a formula that would basically calculate the following: The difference between one mile and x amount of meters, multiplied by the original meter time, it gives me a converted mile pace. I know that sounds really confusing, and believe me, this was something I had to think really hard about especially since math is NOT my thing! So what the formula looks like (I'm going to use 400 meters as an example) is this: 1600 meters divided by 400 meters (1200m) multiplied by 2:36 (400 meter time) is equal to 10:24. Does that make sense? Yeah, it doesn't to me either! hahahaha Buuuuttttt, I'm pretty sure I wasn't way off base because when I plugged it all in the 1600 meter pace was exactly what the book said it should be. So even though I'm far from a math genius, I'm confident Excel saved me! I've also had the opportunity to test it out as I have compared my splits against what my key paces should be and they've lined up every time. So again, pretty confident I was actually right for a change! hahaha So the track problem was SOLVED as far as paces went!

By the way - it looked something like this* when I was done:
*Not really, but it sure made my brain FEEL like that!

I then had to do the final step of converting the meters into mile equivalents using an online conversion calculator and then it was ready for input into the Garmin Training Center (TC). (FYI: If you own a Garmin and don't program your own workouts in, you're missing out! One of the best features of this already powerful device!) I also put the workout on the calendar in TC and then when I upload to device all I have to do is select "Today's Date" for my workout and off I go. 

So the final step? 


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Training With a Purpose

So I was talking earlier this LAST week (this is what happens when you don't finish the blog as planned...) where I pretty much just trained for my past two half marathons with the mindset of "just doing it". Yeah, I hoped for a miracle to happen in my finish time, but when I am honest with myself, I wasn't training with a purpose of getting an awesome finish time. I skipped workouts, I did haphazard speedwork, and I usually only got close to the mileage of a half marathon once each time during a training cycle...and well, it showed in my finish times! Big surprise, right???

After completing my second half, even though it was a TON of fun and I really enjoyed myself, I said "I don't know if people are actually meant to run 13.1 miles!" In other was still a little tough and mentally grueling at times. But after a few months the tickle began to niggle at my brain again. Maybe it was time to find another half marathon. I actually even started thinking I might want to tackle a FULL marathon! HA! Very funny, brain...very funny. When thinking about a new half to tackle I wanted a couple of things:
  • a somewhat scenic course (AKA - not 7 miles along a riverbed while staring at the freeway)
  • for it to happen sometime between February-May 2013
  • one that didn't cost a gazillion dollars
  • And that's pretty much about it...see, not looking for much!
There was also an added criteria for my mom & sister that they would prefer one that either had a 4-hour time limit or would at least allow you to finish on your own if needed. Well, I think we found one that fits most of those criteria! Really the only one it didn't meet was the date as it takes place in January 2013 - a month earlier than I was personally hoping for. So the timeline was slightly less than I was looking for, but still totally do-able. Oh - and this one has a 4-hour time limit and I believe they note that if you don't meet the time limit then you are on your own. So added bonus for sure! I should note that I run with my mom and sister on a regular basis and they would tell you themselves - I'm quite a bit quicker than they are, even though I still consider myself "slow". We do always agree to run our own races and whoever gets finished first gets to cheer the others in. During the Tinkerbell Half they both also ran, but unfortunately were sweeped from the course due to falling behind cut-off times - super disappointing for both of them, but they still got to partake in all the fun after-party events and enjoy their bling!

Now let me go backwards for just a little bit to a conversation I had with a co-worker while I was in the midst of training for Tinkerbell. He is a speedy little guy and has run multiple half marathons and his recommendation for training was to use the Run Less, Run Faster method. He said it is the only training plan he uses. I knew as soon as he mentioned it that I had heard of it from reading Runner's World magazine faithfully like a religion every month when it hits my mailbox, but I have to admit that it totally intimidated me! I know that the paces they showed were definitely a big stretch for me. But I decided to go ahead and check it out anyways and wouldn't you know it - it happened to be on sale through the Amazon Kindle store for only $2.99! SCORE!
Runner's World Run Less, Run Faster, Revised Edition: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Run-a-Week Training Program
Click here to visit on
It seemed like the planets were aligning, even though I didn't own a Kindle! HA! But you know they have a Kindle app for your smart phones? So I downloaded the app, the book, and got to reading. And I was definitely intrigued! I was already solidly into training, so it would have to be for a future race and that was that - I set it aside and didn't think about it again until that little voice in my brain started telling me it was time again. If I wanted a 2:30 finish, then wasn't it time to push outside of my comfort zone and GET IT???

saw this on Facebook from Run With Jess - sums it up perfectly, eh?!?
So I decided it was time to implement the FIRST method for training that is the basis for Run Less, Run Faster*. FIRST = Furman Institute of Running and Science Training. They had done quite a bit of research outlining that if you cut out "junk miles" and focused on three key running workouts each week and two cross-training workouts that you could greatly improve your times. There's all kinds of other things in the book like scientific mumbo-jumbo, but I was sold at them telling me that not only did I not have to run 5x a week, I could also improve my times! So with that, I began mapping out my training schedule...only to realize that I should have started several days earlier already! D'OH! I can seriously laugh about it now, but it was pretty scary when I was behind on my training before even getting started. But I'm not the kind of girl that lets something like that stop me. I did what any other bada$$ runner would do and modified!

I can't say that it has been a completely smooth training road and I have had to make some adjustments along the way, but overall I can say that I got what I bargained for - I've been challenged and I'm having fun! And we'll see come January 2013 if the plan pays off with a 2:30 finish time! I'm pretty hopeful at the moment that it will...

I'll be back later this week with how I went about scheduling my training plan and some of the modifications that I've made to it.

Question for you: Have you used a training plan to nail a goal pace before? If yes, what did you use?

*Note: If you decide to purchase Run Less, Run Faster please note that the REVISED version is the only one that currently has key running paces included for 5k times that are above 30 minutes. I currently don't run a sub-30 5k finish time so I was lucky that before the revised version was published that I had printed the tables for 30-40 minutes from the Furman website. Those tables are now ONLY available in the revised version of the book. If you already have a sub-30 5k time, then buying a used or earlier version should be just fine for you.